Friday, May 14, 2010

Don't Miss In The Heights

What was the last Broadway show you saw? Actually, what's the last Broadway show you can NAME? Cats? Phantom? Les Miserables? Maybe even Rent? If those are your answers, I have a proposition for you. And that proposition is: Read this post.

For me, it all started with the 2008 Tony awards.

During the first hour, the cast of a show I've never heard of called In The Heights performs, since it's nominated for Best Musical. I find it intriguing and exciting, both musically and lyrically ("It's gettin' too darn hot/Like my man Cole Porter said" is pretty genius) and hey, isn't that the kid from Camp?? I love Camp! I therefore love this!

Then, a while later, the show wins Best Original Score, and this goofy looking dude, who is apparently also the star, gets up and gives the best acceptance speech I've ever seen. Complete with improvised Sondheim shout-out! Go ahead and watch it. I'll wait.

The next day at lunch, I went to the record store and bought the soundtrack and listened to it for days - okay fine, weeks - in a row. The story - about three days in the life of a Latin community in Washington Heights, Queens, New York - is, in many ways, far away from my own life. But the themes of home, family, love, belonging, loss and hope are themes that even the most cyncial person, living far from that world, can relate to. I loved it, and I was so bummed that I lived about seven states away from the Great White Way, the only opportunity I had to experience In The Heights in person. And so I did what any non-NYC-living Broadway freak would do: I turned to the internet.

Things like Legally Brown (Matthew Morrison appearance!) and Heights Cool Musical were discoveries that followed, and then, at Christmastime, there was this, and I was done. My enjoyment of the show was already through the roof, but my enjoyment of Lin-Manuel Miranda? Turned into slightly creepy stalker-y type adoration.

In 2009, Lin (we are clearly besties who are on a first name basis) worked with Stephen Sondheim on translating dialogue and lyrics from West Side Story into Spanish for the revival. He composes for and appears on the revival of The Electric Company. He won a Grammy and was a finalist for the Pulitzer for In The Heights. He was House's roommate. He left the show, with a wonderful final curtain call. He got engaged. He was part of this documentary that has been on my Tivo since May. He performed for the First Family. And he's going to Run This Tour.

(He also just turned 30.)

So that's the timeline of my slightly creepy obsession with Lin-Manuel Miranda. But what about the show? Why am I lecturing you about some random show that's far away from you in NYC?

Because, didn't you watch the Run This Tour video? THEY ARE ON TOUR. AND YOU SHOULD GO. Mr. Roxy and I had the privilege of seeing it TWICE when the show was in our city, and it was worth every penny and moment that we spent with it.

The tour cast, though maybe easy to dismiss, is phenomenal. The first night we saw it, four of the lead characters were played by their understudies. You'd generally think, especially with a tour cast, "Oh hell. Understudies." (When we saw Les Mis on tour a few years ago, we got stuck with understudy for Valjean. It was a rough few hours.) Not with this company. Every role, even those played by people who had never done it before, was pitch-perfect. We had two different understudies when we saw it the second time, and it was still just as wonderful.

If you think you don't like theatre, or that musicals are cheesy, or that there's nothing in this story that appeals to you or that you can relate to...well, you're wrong. And I'm sorry for being bossy, but isn't that the point of this whole endeavor? So when you see In The Heights roll through your town, just stop, think about how your life could use some culture - or just some dancing - and don't miss out.

(PS, I'm not getting anything for writing this post. I just love it, and you should trust me. Have I led you astray yet?)

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